Trade associations call for Budget assistance

Two leading UK trade associations have issued a joint statement calling on Chancellor George Osborne to address what they see as a number of key issues affecting SMEs in the Budget.

The Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) are calling for measures that they say will help to enable and encourage SME growth. These measures include action in the areas of red tape and business rates, support and direction in energy issues and the introduction of an online portal that would help ensure that private businesses working on public sector contracts are paid on time.

The two bodies are not the only organisations to call for changes in business rates. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has placed a fundamental overhaul of the UK’s business rates system at the heart of its small business wish-list ahead of the Spring Budget Statement. It has broadly welcomed plans to devolve rates receipts to local authorities but has also said that the rates system as it stands is unresponsive to economic circumstances and is viewed by its members as deeply unfair. The ECA and BESA claim that reducing the tax burden on small businesses would be beneficial for growth.

The associations have also highlighted what they see as a need for both support and long-term policy direction regarding energy efficiency and renewables. They claim that an improvement in the regulatory and legal environment surrounding the area of energy storage could also contribute to improved energy resilience and security within the UK.

Finally, the two groups are calling for a centralised online procurement portal, to enable public sector clients to manage the supply chain. Late payments are a major problem for many small and medium sized businesses and it is for this reason that change is being sought.

A report by electronic invoicing network Tungsten, found that half of all invoices owed to smaller businesses were overdue and that almost a quarter (23%) of SMEs had been close to company insolvency as a result. A dedicated online portal, the groups claim, could help protect private businesses from late payments when working with the public sector.

By Phil Smith

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